I’m not quite sure when our new friends became our old friends– and I swear I’m not talking about how old we all are, just that we’ve started counting the age of our friendship in decades rather than years. But we’re so thankful for our friends and glad some of the best came for a visit this past weekend!
Efram and Ally are at last buddies who can play together…. and get into mischief together. Oh, the mischief! And at last, some adult evenings since we’re enjoying a lull in bedtime drama. A wonderful weekend!
Ally’s teachers at her new school told me that on Tuesday, Ally took a nap and woke up smiling. And that is what we saw for the rest of her first week of preschool– a different kid, one I have missed these past few months. A smiling, cooperative Ally, suddenly more mature and again enthusiastic to start each day and welcome whatever it may offer. She chattered on her way to and from school, telling me about her new friends and her attempts to cross the monkey bars in the playground. Since she doesn’t spend an entire day with Mandy any longer, her interest in her increased as did her patience. For example, she very carefully taught Mandy the phrase “bare butt” and the word “naked”! We are so thankful to see Ally happy again!
Or is Rob the piggy? Huh. Regardless, Mandy has been trying to crawl onto our backs for a week now and it is the. cutest. thing.
This photo is the best from our morning, and when I look at it I think, hey! Those are some cute kids.
It helps that they are sleeping. This is what photographs do to us– calm the dinosaurs that were raging in our bellies this morning and capture a moment that, in retrospect, seems rather sweet. It must be the same trickery that makes me remember birthing children as “not so bad.”
We all made it, of course. I don’t think there are casualties from the first day of preschool. When I retrieved Ally I saw her playing happily with a card of tiny multicolored shapes and I was happy to see her engaging in big kid activities. She knew one girl’s name and seemed at ease already in the room. But then I learned that the teachers had flagged her lunch as contraband as its nut butter was of questionable origins; you see, it’s a nut free school, and though I signed paperwork agreeing that I would abide by the policy and though I spread her sandwich with approved $6/jar soy nut butter, they weren’t sure it was soy nut butter. So my daughter had saltine crackers, a string cheese, and grapes for lunch. Because, you know, it would be too hard to call me on the phone and ask. Nevertheless Ally has proclaimed that she likes her school and would like to go back for “100 days.”
Her lunch for tomorrow contains a note that, if I were more snarky, would be phrased, “I solemnly swear that the nut butter in this sandwich is soy nut butter.”
It was so different than I expected.
You see, I had this image in my mind of Ally’s first day of school, and I’m pretty sure it involved a picture of a beaming, uniform-clad Ally with freshly combed hair; her tummy would be filled with something wholesome and her teeth would be brushed (without bribes on my part, of course) and she would be a little nervous but most of all EXCITED about school and new friends. She would find again the easy smile I remember from her younger days and jump into the classroom activity with enthusiasm as Rob and I waved good-bye, and we would smile to each other and congratulate ourselves for raising such a friendly, sweet girl.
But instead we rushed through the morning and I think we all were feeling anxious and edgy, and the breakfast was just instant oatmeal and as is true more often than best, the t.v. was on. As we escorted her to her classroom a smiling bright-eyed classmate chirped, “Hi! I’m Emma! I’ll be your friend!” And I loved this little girl. I wanted to be her friend, too. But Ally wrapped her fingers around my knees and scowled. I unwrapped her arms and hugged her, then nudged her toward the other children, feeling my heart rise into my throat.
As we left, I saw a Mom taking a picture of a smiling boy in Ally’s class. He reached his arms wide, grinning for the camera as the sun lit his face, pausing for a moment before racing into school. I imagined Ally alone in her new classroom, sullen and lost. And I felt a certain sense of failure, that I must have done something wrong for her to react this way. Is this why it’s hard to take children to school for the first time? Because you hand over a piece of yourself and just hope?
Ally playing with the tape that holds down paper on the art easel:
I did not do this to her.
Thank goodness pigtails are sort of a pain to put in.
Because if Mandy looked like this every day, I’m pretty sure I’d have to buy her a pony just to see her pigtail ringlets bounce.
I know we have a reputation for loving change. Spontaneity is a synonym for the Stewart family for sure! After all there was that time we ordered pizza from Papa John’s instead of Domino’s, and once Rob tried a chocolate donut with nonpareils on it (verdict: too crunchy). So you can imagine how our collective stomach is sitting with the big change that is just now a week away.
A couple months ago we had to acknowledge to ourselves that it was probably time for Ally to go to a formal preschool. I say probably in the strongest sense of the word because we weren’t– aren’t– sure about this decision. The family day care Ally has attended since she was six months old is wonderful. And her caregiver is like a second mother to her. And Mandy goes there too. And she has learned so much there in a cozy, loving environment. Despite these arguments to keep Ally where she has spent so many years, there were others: that Ally’s closest friends there are moving on to kindergarten this year, leaving her as the oldest; that we think Ally needs some time away from her sister; and that we think she would benefit from a more formal classroom space with other children her age before going to full day kindergarten. We went back and forth. But finally we decided that it was time for Ally to move on. This thought makes me need to close my eyes and take deep breaths.
Ally seems simultaneously curious, tentative, and excited about her new school. Over the past few weeks we have started to accumulate her required school gear. First: this school has a uniform requirement! After I returned home with her collection of school shirts (where’s the pink? where’s the purple? WHERE’S THE GLITTER?!) she spread them on the floor and danced around.
Of course Mandy had to join in.
We also had to purchase supplies for packing her lunch for the first time: a lunch box, little containers for sandwiches and snacks and hot or cold items, special princess ice packs.
Back-to-school night is this Thursday. Then she’ll have her last day at her family daycare. And then– a new school. Double drop-offs and pick-ups for us. Double fundraisers and field trips. A whole new set of germs to share. I hope we have made the right decision. The excitement I see from Ally tells me that we have, so I’m working to embrace this change and find joy in it!
God grant me the serenity
to accept that my family loves Hamburger Helper;
time to make my homemade version;
I learned of a drop-in preschooler dance class from some friends in the neighborhood who have frequented the classes for the past month or so. The classes have fun themes like fairies, pajama party, etc. How fun! Ally earned a trip to a class by being good at bedtime for five nights. She accumulated stickers on a chart with the promise that when she had five stickers, I would take her.
The theme of our class was a beach party/luau. Ally donned her bathing suit, tutu, and lei and loved leaping across the dance studio with her friends. Mandy was a bit less happy– she found the waiting room quite unsatisfactory and wanted to be dancing with the big kids. I don’t blame her, they were having a great time!